Curious whether to travel to St Thomas or St Maarten for vacation? If so, you’ve come to the right place. 

St. Thomas is known for its relaxing beaches, shopping, and top-notch snorkeling opportunities. St Maarten is known for its exceptional restaurants, lively nightlife, and stunning tropical islands. 

I have visited each of these islands and they’re very similar, but there’s a few key differences that set them apart.  

My guide will cover the differences in beaches, cuisine, nightlife, safety, cost, and more, to help you decide where to plan your next trip!

Keep on reading to find out how St Maarten compares to St Thomas!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase through these links we may earn a commission. This helps keep our content free, at no additional cost to you. 

St Thomas vs St Maarten
St Thomas vs St Maarten

St Thomas At A Glance

St. Thomas is a small island located in the Caribbean that’s a part of the U.S Virgin Islands. It’s known for its picturesque beaches, lively culture, shopping, and snorkeling. 

The landscape of St Thomas consists of lush green hills and beaches with clear waters and colorful coral reefs.

Mandahl Bay, St. Thomas
Mandahl Bay, St. Thomas USVI (Photo by: Karl Callwood)

Throughout St. Thomas, there are many incredible beaches for snorkeling. Magen’s Bay Beach and Sapphire Beach have sea turtles, stingrays, and some of the most vibrant coral reefs.

If you prefer secluded beaches, Secret Harbor Beach and Lindquist Beach are some of the most pristine beaches in St Thomas. 

When it comes to accommodations, St Thomas has everything from all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels, and luxurious oceanfront villas.

St. Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas, USVI
(Photo by: Karl Callwood)

If you enjoy outdoor activities, St Thomas offers kayaking, parasailing, paragliding, and boat tours that’ll take you to the best beaches for snorkeling. 

Beyond the natural attractions, St Thomas is home to an aquarium, museum, various historical landmarks, and a tram ride that gives a scenic overlook of the St Thomas Harbor. 

In addition, the port town of Charlotte Amalie has plenty of shopping opportunities and beautiful beaches. You can stop by to purchase souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, or handmade belgian chocolates at the Belgian Chocolate Factory. 

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
(Photo by: Andy Feliciotti)

Although not as exceptional as St Maarten, St Thomas has many great restaurants. From traditional Caribbean cuisine to fine-dining seafood, there’s something for everyone. 

St Thomas is often thought of as having the best nightlife in the US Virgin Islands. From sunset cruises to beachside bars with live music, there’s no shortage of places to enjoy a night out.

Additionally, St Thomas has festivals and carnivals throughout the year. The largest festival is the Thomas Carnival, which celebrates the local Caribbean culture through parades, music, dancing, and more. 

All in all, St Thomas is an excellent place to visit if you’re looking for the perfect blend of relaxation and outdoor activities.

St Thomas vs St Maarten

Things To Do In St Thomas

From snorkeling on the beach to trying out new seafood restaurants, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in St Thomas. For a complete list of St Thomas’s tourist activities, read our article on 20 fun things to do in St Thomas.

That being said, one of the best ways to explore St Thomas is to go beach-hopping. The most notable beach by far in St Thomas is Magen’s Bay.

It has soft powdery white sand, clear waters, lifeguards, showering stalls, and watersport equipment rentals. The entrance fee to the beach is $5 for ages 12 and older, and the parking fee is $2. Jetskiis aren’t allowed on the beach, but you can go boating, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling. 

Magen's Bay Beach
Magen’s Bay Beach, St. Thomas
(Photo by: Toni Osmundson)

Another incredible beach we visited during our stay was Sapphire Beach. This beach is full of sea turtles, stingrays, colorful fish, and abundant coral reefs. The entrance is completely free, and it’s a wonderful place for relaxing and enjoying watersports. 

Coral Reef in St. Thomas
Coral Reef in St. Thomas
(Photo by: Karl Callwood)

Other beaches worth visiting are Honeymoon Beach, and Coki Beach, which don’t have an entrance fee.

However, you’ll need to pay $5 for parking on Coki Beach, and $10 for a taxi to get to Honeymoon beach from the parking. 

St. Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas, USVI (Photo by: Colin Chong)

If you want a glimpse into St Thomas’s History, head to Fort Christian, or the St Thomas Synagogue. Fort Christian is a historical fort built all the way back in 1672 to protect the Charlotte Amalie harbor. Admission is $10, and it’s open Monday to Friday from 8:30AM to 4:30PM.

St Thomas’s Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue in the Western hemisphere, and it offers free tours Monday through Friday from 9AM to 3PM. 

Here are some of the top tourist attractions in St Thomas. 

  • Honeymoon Beach
  • Pirates Treasure Museum
  • Water Island
  • St. Thomas Synagogue
  • Mountain Top
  • Drake’s Seat
  • St. Thomas Mangrove
St Thomas vs St Maarten

St Maarten At A Glance

Also located in the U.S Virgin Islands, St. Maarten is a popular island for tourists, and for good reason. St Maarten’s landscape consists of mountainous highlands, and coastal lowlands with tropical beaches. 

Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
(Photo by: Scott S Bateman)

It’s divided into Saint Martin (the French side), and Sint Maarten (the Dutch side). The French side is quiet and similar to St Thomas. On the other hand, the Dutch side is lively and is most frequently visited by tourists.

Unlike St Thomas where tourists often stay in beachfront villas, St Maarten has more upscale resorts and hotel options.

When we stayed in St Maarten, we stayed at Grand Case Beach Club, which was only a 10 minute drive away from the SXM airport. The beach club has two private beaches where guests can go swim and snorkel. There’s free snorkel, paddleboard, kayak, and other watersports equipment from 9AM to 5PM for guests as well.

Compared to St Thomas, St Maarten is much easier to drive around, and the beaches are generally more accessible. The beaches in Saint Maarten aren’t as good for snorkeling as St Thomas’s beaches, but they’re great for relaxing and enjoying a drink at a beach bar. 

Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
(Photo by: Brighton Pereira)

Some of the most popular beaches in St Maarten are Maho Beach, and Orient Bay Beach. Orient Bay Beach is a 3km beach that’s perfect for swimming and relaxing. Maho Beach is a beach at the end of an airport runway where you can watch as planes fly right over the beach! 

A must visit place if you visit St Maarten is Pinel Island. You can take a shuttle for $12 USD, and it only takes 5 minutes to get there. Pinel Island is one of the best locations for snorkeling in St Maarten, and the island is surrounded by friendly iguanas!

Pinel Island, St. Maarten
Pinel Island, St. Maarten
(Photo by: Ervin Lukacs)

The Dutch side of St Maarten has a lively nightlife scene with many popular beach bars, casinos, discos, lively nightclubs, and  hookah lounges. The French side has a more relaxed nightlife and is more ideal for a sunset dinner on the beach. 

St Maarten has some of the best restaurants in the U.S Virgin Islands, with everything from fresh seafood to creole cuisine. In fact, the beach town of Grand Case on the French side is often thought of as the Carribeans culinary capital!

In the capital of Philipsburg, there are historical landmarks, museums, shopping centers, rum distilleries, and the Parrotville bird sanctuary. 

Overall, St Maarten is a great place to visit if you’re looking to relax on the beach, enjoy delicious food, and enjoy a fun night out. 

St Thomas vs St Maarten

Things To Do In St Maarten

One of the most popular places to visit in St Maarten is Maho Beach. This beach is located at the end of an airport runway and free lounge chairs, so you can relax and watch as planes fly right over the beach!

There is no admission fee, and there are many bars and restaurants on the beach. 

Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
(Photo by: Robin Canfield)

Another beach you won’t want to miss visiting is Orient Bay Beach on the French side, which is St Maarten’s most famous beach. It has a long stretch of white sand and calm waters for swimming and snorkeling. 

The next must visit spot is Pinel Island which is located right off coast of the French side. The island is accessible by a ferry that leaves every 30 minutes from 9:30AM to 5PM. The ferry is $12 USD per person and it’s only a short 10 minute ride to get there.

St Maarten Pier
St Maarten Pier
(Photo by: Brighton Pereira)

Pinel Island is one of the best places in St Maarten for snorkeling. It has serene beaches with shallow waters, and an underwater snorkeling trail surrounded by colorful coral reefs. The island is surrounded by friendly iguanas, and there are bars and restaurants making it wonderful for a day trip. 

In the capital of Philipsburg, Parrote Ville Bird park is a popular bird sanctuary with over 170 birds. Admission is $10 per person, and you’ll get the chance to feed the birds so it’s an excellent spot to take kids. 

Also located in Philipsburg is the Loterie Farm, a nature preserve where you can go ziplining or hiking through a tropical forest. Admission to Loterie Farm is $5 USD, and it’s open daily from 9AM to 5PM. 

St Maarten
St. Maarten
(Photo by: Lauren Ostrout)

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you won’t want to miss visiting the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit in Philipsburg. The museum has Star Wars props, costumes, and is owned by the special-effects designer who created Yoda, Nick Maley! 

If you’re looking to shop, stop by Old Street in Philipsburg to shop at small shops and jewelry stores. 

Here are some of the top tourist attractions in St Maarten. 

  • Miguel’s Hot Beach Spot
  • Great Bay Beach
  • Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
  • Pinel Island
  • Old Street
  • Little Bay Beach
  • Steepest Zip Line
  • Loterie Farm St.
St Thomas vs St Maarten

Which destination is better?

Both St Thomas and St Maarten are incredible islands for a vacation if you seek a mix of relaxation and outdoor activities. 

If snorkeling, parasailing and doing water sport activities is highest on your list of things to do, St Thomas is the place for you. 

If you prefer relaxing on the beach, savoring French cuisine, and partying, St Maarten’s the best destination for you. 

Regardless of which island you choose to visit, you’ll be left with memories to last a lifetime. 


Both St Thomas and St Maarten have pristine beaches with soft white sand and clear waters for swimming and relaxation. That being said, the beaches in St Thomas are the best for snorkeling and outdoor activities.

Magen’s Bay Beach and Sapphire Beach in St Thomas have abundant coral reefs, sea turtles, and colorful fish. Sapphire Beach has no admission fee whereas Magen’s Bay Beach is $5 USD for people 12 and older. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment on both beaches. 

On the other hand, beaches in St Maarten are ideal for swimming and sunbathing. Maho Beach is a popular beach where you can watch planes land while enjoying a drink at a beachside bar. Orient Bay Beach is St Maarten’s most popular beach that’s surrounded by upscale restaurants and bars.

Overall, the beaches in St Maarten are best for relaxing. If you’d like to snorkel in St Maarten, the best spot to visit is the Pinel Island, located just off the coast of Saint Maarten.


There’s no shortage of delicious food in St Thomas or St Maarten. The cuisine in the US Virgin Islands consists of traditional Caribbean cuisine, with common dishes being conch fritters, johnnycakes, and fresh seafood. 

St. Thomas’s cuisine consists of Caribbean flavors with American influences, whereas St. Maarten’s cuisine is a fusion of Dutch, French, and Caribbean flavors.

If you’re not a fan of Caribbean cuisine, there’s plenty of Italian, American, and fine-dining seafood restaurants throughout both islands. 

St Maarten is most known for its exceptional French and fine-dining restaurants, whereas St Thomas has some of the best Caribbean and International restaurants. 

In St. Thomas, make sure to try out an authentic pineapple tart from a Caribbean bakery. In St Maarten, head to one of the many French bakeries to try out an authentic crepe or croissant. 

Here are some of the most common dishes in St Thomas. 

  • Johnny Cake: A traditional fried bread.
  • Pates: Fried pies filled with meat or fish
  • Conch Fritters: Deep-fried conch meat balls.
  • Curry Goat: Tender goat meat in a rich curry sauce.
  • Saltfish and Dumplings: Salted codfish with boiled dumplings.

Here are some of the most common dishes in St Thomas. 

  • Callaloo Soup: A traditional Caribbean soup made with callaloo leaves.
  • Grouper Creole: Fresh grouper fish in a spicy tomato-based sauce.
  • Lobster Thermidor: Grilled lobster topped with a creamy cheese sauce.
  • Accra: Deep-fried saltfish fritters.
  • French Pastries


St. Thomas and St. Maarten both have tropical climates with warm temperatures all year-round. The average temperature range in St Thomas is from 74 F to 89 F, while the average temperature in St Maarten is from 71 F to 86 F. 


The United States Dollar is the official currency in St Thomas, whereas the official currency in St. Maarten is the Antillean Guilder, and the euro on the French side.

However, US Dollars and major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the islands so you won’t need to convert your dollars in either island. 


The predominant language in St. Thomas is English, with French and Spanish being commonly spoken on the island as well. The predominant languages in St. Maarten is Dutch, English, and French. However, English is the most commonly spoken dialect throughout the island. 

Cost to Travel

St. Maarten is generally more expensive to travel to than St Thomas, for hotels, food, and other accommodations. However, rental cars are much cheaper in St. Maarten. 


Both St Thomas and St. Maarten has lively nightlife, with bars, clubs, hookah lounges, and more. The bars in St Thomas are laid-back and play live Caribbean music. On the Dutch side of St. Maarten, there are many popular beach bars and casinos whereas the French side has restaurants. 


Both St. Thomas and St Maarten are generally considered safe destinations for tourists. 

St Thomas vs St Maarten

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit St. Thomas and St Maarten is in the months of May, June, November, and December when the hotel rates are the lowest. The worst time to visit both islands is from July to November during their rainy seasons. 

Also read:


Does St. Thomas or St Maarten have better snorkeling?

St Thomas’s beaches are better for snorkeling in general. St Thomas’s beaches have vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life. The best spots for snorkeling in St Thomas are Magen’s Bay Beach and Sapphire Beach, whereas the best spot for snorkeling in St Maarten is on Pinel Island. 

How far is St Thomas from St Maarten?

The distance between St. Thomas and St. Maarten is approximately 197 kilometers

US Virgin Islands Travel Planning Guide

Can you drink the water in St Thomas & St Maarten?

Yes, the tap water is safe to drink and generally very clean in the US Virgin Islands. However, I recommend and always use a Brita water bottle to filter water when traveling throughout the islands.

Should I buy travel insurance?

100% YES! Basic coverage starts at $5-$10 per day, and can save you peace of mind. Find the best policy (and prices) for your trip with Travel Insurance Masters.

Should I rent a car in St Thomas and St Maarten?

Yes, renting a car is highly advisable on both islands, especially in St Maarten so that you visit the Dutch and French side. It takes around 50-60 minutes to drive to the other side of the island in St Maarten, so having a rental car is a must.

Where’s the best place to book accommodations for the USVI?

My #1 choice for booking hotels is For cheaper accommodations and rentals with a homier feel, my go-to is 

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